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Stabbing at Fun Fair: One Killed

Santa Fe
Crosby Theater
07/01/2022 -  and July, 6, 9, 15, 22, August 2, 8, 13, 17, 27, 2022
Georges Bizet: Carmen
Isabel Leonard (Carmen), Matthew White (Don José), Michael Sumuel (Escamillo), Sylvia D’Eramo (Micaëla), David Crawford (Zuniga), Darren Lekeith Drone (Moralès), Magdalena Kuzma (Frasquita), Maire Therese Carmack (Mercédès), Lilas Pastia, Luke Sutliff (Le Dancaïre), Anthony León (Le Remendado), Omen Thomas Sade (Lilas Pastia)
Santa Fe Opera Chorus, Susanne Sheston (Chorus Mistress), Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, Harry Bicket (Conductor)
Mariame Clément (Director), Julia Hansen (Scenic and Costume Designer), Duane Schuler (Lighting Designer), Mathieu Guilhaumon (Choreographer), Rick Sordelet, Christian Kelly-Sordelet (Fight and Intimacy Directors)

M. White (© Curtis Brown for SFO)

The Santa Fe Opera (SFO) 2022 season had its grand opening last night with a new production of Carmen, passionately received by the audience, as you will only witness in Santa Fe.

Over the past twenty years, French director Mariame Clément has garnered a solid reputation in the world of opera. She has worked with some of the most respected companies: Paris’s Opéra national and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, Madrid’s Teatro Real, and Geneva’s Grand Théâtre, to name just a few. Here, she moves Carmen to the twenty-first century in a fun-fair setting with elements of roller-coaster tracks and cotton candy. The tragedy is hosted on a gloomy, ominous stage where the jubilant crowd is almost incongruous. The approach is reminiscent of Peter Brook’s The Tragedy of Carmen presented at the Bouffes du Nord Theater in Paris in the early 1980s. Clément focuses on the themes of fate and violence, both at the crux of the matter in this opera. Whether this staging is a stroke of genius remains arguable.

Previously announced as Don José, tenor Bryan Hymel withdrew from this production “for personal reasons” and was replaced by Matthew White. The part of Don José is written for a lyrical tenor, which White is not. Despite a ringing high register, the voice is hardly powerful enough, thus getting lost in ensembles. His rendition of the flower aria is honorable, at best. Bass-baritone Michael Sumuel is an adequate Escamillo. He draws an eloquent portrait of the quintessential, self-conceited matador. Sylvia D’Eramo has a clear soprano, and her Micaëla would be superb should she stay away from some unwarranted powerful notes. Micaëla is not Tosca. Isabel Leonard is a charismatic Carmen. From the Séguedille to the final duet, her voice and fiery defiance convince. One of her best moments is probably the second part of the Act II duet “Au quartier! Pour l’appel!”; the other one is the card aria where she secures beautiful round low notes, particularly on “La mort.” Last but not least, her French is polished, which is not the case for the rest of the cast. Luke Sutliff (Le Dancaïre), Anthony León (Le Remendado), Magdalena Kuzma (Frasquita), Maire Therese Carmack (Mercédès) are irreproachable in the quintet of Act II: “Nous avons en tête une affaire...”

Along with Leonard, the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra and Chorus are the highlights of last night’s performance. Susanne Sheston can undoubtedly be commended for preparing the chorus to near perfection. In the pit, Maestro Harry Bicket conducts a superbly disciplined performance, fresh and revealing. Musicians and choristers alike serve this glorious score with a seductive tingle of dramatic and forceful tension.

One last thing: why on earth were we deprived of the children’s chorus “Avec la garde montante...” ? Quelle honte!

Santa Fe Opera

Christian Dalzon



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